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'I am concerned with my two environments: the internal and the external; and the constant exchange of information between the two. As I project myself onto the world, so too do I internalize the world’s projections onto me.' —Igshaan Adams

In "Parda IV", South African artist Igshaan Adams explores the complexities of identity through the materiality of weaving. His biography directly informs his work. Born in 1982, Adams lives and works in Cape Town. An observant and openly gay Muslim man raised by Christian grandparents and classified as ‘colored’ (bi-racial) under the South African Apartheid system, Adams navigates intersections of race, sexuality, and religion through his artmaking. Strongly influenced by Sufism, Adams seeks to challenge religious and racial stereotypes by pursing the practice of looking inwards to define oneself. His exploration of the relationship between his ‘two environments’, namely ‘the internal and the external,’ is evidenced in his interest in the materiality and sculptural form of textile art which breaks through the representational mode predominant in much contemporary South African art.1

'Navigating my way around the expectations imbedded within the stereotypes of my social roles, I continue to search for new understanding, new ways of seeing my combination of identities.' —Igshaan Adams

Drawing upon Islamic iconographies, Parda IV exemplifies Adams’s exploration of selfhood. The large-scale piece was first exhibited in 2015 as one of a series of textile wall-hangings presented under the shared title of Parda, meaning a veil or curtain. Constructed from string and recycled synthetic rope made locally by a company in Cape Town, the interwoven strands represent the entwining of the different facets of the artist’s identity. The lower portion of the work is left unwoven. The loose strands, some ending in tassels, evoke his ongoing work with Islamic prayer mats and suggest that identity is unfixed and comes into being through a continual process of undoing and re-making. Through the unravelling of the veil, Adams pursues a ‘need to unearth, unmask and unveil the mysteries hidden within the depths of the Self, beyond race, class, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. Who am I, beyond my identity?’2

The recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2018, Adams has exhibited his work widely both in South Africa and internationally. His first solo UK exhibition is currently on show at the Hayward Gallery in London. Titled Kicking Dust, Adams presents an immersive environment. Featuring wall-hung tapestries, the continued significance of the weaving techniques first employed in the Parda series is evidenced in the installation, asserting the artist’s reputation as a powerful voice working in textile art today.

1 Igshaan Adams, quoted in ‘Igshaan Adams’, blank projects, online
2 Igshaan Adams, quoted in Christine Cronjé, Jonathan Garnham, Hannah Lewis, eds., Igshaan Adams, Cape Town, 2015, p. 109
Aspire Art Auctions Inaugural Cape Auction March 2017
blank projects; Cape Town; Parda; 30 June to 25 August 2016.


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